When you are talking about the defence of a team, probably the most critical person in the team would be the first basemen. Well, simply put, he is the strongest pillar of defence for the team, every runner would have to get through him while on the field.
He is expected to make up for any lousy throw from any part of the ground. To help things off for him, we would like to suggest nine odd drills that would help the first baseman be strong, confident, agile, and hold the runners in the base.
If you have been in the field ever, you would have an idea that the first base is known as "the other hot corner," while the third base is called "the hot corner." Now, there is a basic of baseball according to which the first basemen are mostly lefties.
Thus, we have tried putting in the drills keeping that in mind. However, there is perfectly nothing that the right-handed basemen must worry about, as we would be putting in short notes on how to make a drill effective for the right-handed players as well.
1. First Base Stride Setup and Catch Drill
This is an impressive drill. When a striker hits a ground ball to the third baseman or the shortstop, the first base player mostly stretches out to keep in line with the third baseman's positions too quickly. In such a case, when the ball is thrown far away, they generally tend to change the stretch and, at times, are not able to do it in time and thus results in a few errors from the passed balls.
The perfect moment for the stride is precisely when the ball is released by the thrower. This helps the first baseman understand the direction of approach of the ball.
When on this drill, the coach is present at the home plate and has a fungo bat along with the baseball with him, while the third baseman and the shortstop are present on the positions prepared to field the ball.
While in practice, the shortstop would expect the ball all around him, i.e., center, left, and right. This helps, as, if the ball is hit near or far away from the coach, that might affect how he would have thrown the next ball. Thus, it might affect where the first base player might have to field the ball with respect to the bag.
Left-handed basemen would have to stand to the left of the bag with his foot in contact with the bag. Instructions would be levied on him to make sure that he doesn't stretch and stride unless the shortstop(SS) or third base fielder throws the ball.
Once the first base player is accustomed to the drill and is fully aware of the setting up of his stride, it would be a wise decision to add a runner in the game to give a feel of the real game. The two in-fielders would be receiving the ball, and the player who is the runner would take up his stride towards the first base. Thus this would be a replica of the real game and would make the first baseman more adept to the situation.
2. Stride Drill
One of the most critical points that the first baseman should keep in mind is the stride. It is arguably the most important skill that differentiates an extraordinary baseman from an average one. Thus, let us understand how exactly the first baseman might have a great stride.
This particular drill is specifically designed to focus on certain areas of the throw. This would prepare the first baseman to be ready for the unprecedented throws from the third baseman and the shortstop.
For this particular drill, the first base player would have to find a partner who would throw the ball to the first base. In this case, the baseman would never leave his place and would always have his left leg fixed to the bag.
This partner of the first baseman would stand at a distance of about 20-25 feet. He would start by throwing the balls to the first base player at the chest level. As time passes, the partner would make his position not known to the baseman, throw the balls to the baseman's, right, left, and even vary the height of the ball to make sure that he traps the first baseman in every way possible.
While catching the ball, the first base player should have his stride only after the ball is released from his partner. He is expected to catch the ball at the exact time when his leading stretched foot touches the ground. Now, this is a critical aspect, as this would be of great importance while in the real game. This would also make the catches smooth when the muscles are in coordination with each other.
So, the flow for the first baseman would be, that the body would move forward for a stride, the legs would hit the ground, and simultaneously, the ball would hit the gloves.
The drill should be practiced several times by the players. Much like all other drills or even forms of art, the more one practices, the easier it is for them to get the hand-eye coordination and the muscle coordination right while on the real game. Thus, the basemen should practice this repeated number of times.
3. Playing Position-Shift Drill
While on the field, it depends on a lot of factors when we count the number of times that the runners get to the first base. The first runner has a hectic job of trying to hold the player who’s a runner in the first base and also covering an area of the ground.
This would be a solo drill to start with, where only the coach, along with the first baseman would be involved. As the levels increase, a runner might just join in.
While in the drill, the first base player would have to imagine that a runner is already there in the first base, while there is a bitcher on the mould.
The first base player would get into his position and face the imaginary pitcher. The left foot of the pitcher would be on the bag, and he holds on to the runner. The coach would give on the instructions as and when required.
The drill can be implemented in two cases on the match day.
When the coach instructs "Ready Go", the first base player moves on to the ground to the fielding position, leaving aside the bag. Meanwhile, the pitcher throws hard to the home.
On hearing the phrase "Ready Go" from the coach, the first base player takes two strides and legs off in the second base’s direction. Once done, he would be ready for the gameplay.
Immediately when the coach commands "Hit Ball", for the first base player, it would merely mean that the ball has hit. He would then run on to the first-base and be ready on his position. The first baseman would now get the ball from the coach in the ready position.
4. Wild Throws Around First Base
This particular drill is quite hectic for the first baseman. The drill is focused on the throws made at any point and angle across and around the bag of the first base. The baseman would have to collect the balls coming to him from any random direction all across the semi-circle. This helps make the baseman complete by making sure that he can collect balls even when they are irregularly thrown at him.
The first baseman stands about 10-15ft away from the coach. He thus receives each throw from the coach while being in the ready position.
The person who’s the coach would start making the throws to the first base, mostly towards the first baseline. The first baseman would have to stretch and catch the ball.
Slowly, as the base player gets accustomed to the drill and it gets tougher, the coach would throw the ball to the imaginary center of the semi-circle, the left of the baseman, towards his right and all around the place. The first base player is expected to catch all the balls without moving the left foot from the bag.
If the coach is confident about the first base player, he can even try throwing the balls at different heights for him, which would test the skills of the first baseman further.
5. Turning the Double Play Drill
If and when the player of the first baseman predicts that a double play is probable, he should try getting back to the first base and try to make sure that he gets the out for the second time.
The pitcher might be in a position to cover the bag to his advantage, but then the shortstop would have to shoot tremendously well to make sure that it reaches the pitcher at the right time and the right angle.
Comparatively, it would be way more comfortable for the shortstop to aim for the first baseman who would ideally be in the ready position. The first base player is then expected to go back to the bag and then field the shortstop's throw.
This possibly is the drill among all listed here, which would need the most significant number of players on the field. The coach would ideally love to have two runners, a hitter, a pitcher, the first and second baseman and the shortstop. The drill aims at checking the first baseman's athletic talents when he is expected to move beyond the baseline and make an accurate throw at the second base.
A couple of tips that would help the first baseman improve his athleticism while in this drill would be:
First Tip: The baseman should always try to go in front of the ground ball whenever he can. This should be the case irrespective of where the ball has been hit. The baseman should then spin in a counter-clockwise direction to make sure that he is in the perfect position to make a throw.
Second Tip: The first baseman should make sure that he is not falling in line with the runner’s path or the baseline path. This would make sure that the throw does not hit the player who is the runner in any case and also provides a precise throw without obstructing the view and the lane.
When the first baseman has the free throwing lane, the first base player might shift to approach the catcher. He might also have to move a few steps. This depends entirely on the position of the runner with respect to the infield grass.
For this drill, the game’s coach must be at the home plate along with a fungo bat. The runner should be placed on the first; another runner must be placed at the home plate. He would run to the first base just as the coach hits the softball.
The first base player holds the runner till the pitcher makes the throw. The baseman would now make 2 wide shuffles in the direction of the second base using his feet and make a wide shuffle and stride while facing the home plate. Then, he would shuffle and make a stride for the second time.
The runner who is positioned at the first base shifts, and the one at plate head rushes to take the spot. The first base player would now have to cover the bag as the shortstop throws to the second base, which in turn throws it to the first base. This is the 6-4-3 double play.
The coach now hits the ball accurately at the second baseman using his fungo bat. The second base player would now flip the ball to the shortstop who is covering the first out. The player who is the first baseman follows the game and moves accordingly to set the position to get prepared to stretch his stride.
The shortstop would throw to the first base. The player at first base would have to stretch to catch the softball to get the out for the second time. This type of play is called the 4-6-3 double play.
6. Backhand Catch and Throw Drill
This is important, while this drill might not be one of those that would help the baseman every time while on the ground, but then at times, this drill can be a game-changer. While in the field, a hard throw from one of the players might need a backhand catch.
Thus, in this drill, the coach would try to make sure that the baseman emphasizes on the backhand catching and throwing abilities.
In this skill, the coach would place the runner at the first base. Then the shortstop and the second base player, too, would play pivotal roles in the successful completion of the drill.
Now, the coach would pass the ball towards the shortstop, who would throw the ball towards the right end of the first base player. The baseman would thus collect the ball with a backhand catch.
After catching the ball, the first base player would throw the ball directly to the second base player. The first baseman makes sure that he has a free throwing lane to make sure that the ball reaches the second basemen without intervention. This would help get the runner out at the second base.
We must mention here, to make a perfect throw, the first base player must make sure that his feet move towards the second baseman. This would help the baseman have the sharpest and most accurate throw to the second baseman.
Also, when fielding for the backhand throw, the player who is the first baseman is expected to face the pitcher. When he has received the ball, he would then swiftly reposition himself towards the second baseman before making the throw.
This would give the first base player the perfect opportunity to understand the game developing in the second base and accordingly decide on his throw.
The first base player must make sure that he never shows his back towards the runner or shortstop while making the throw.
7. Team Infield Drill
It recommended that this infield team drill is practiced every time before a real match. This helps the infielders have a final idea about a perfect throw to the first baseman.
Before the commencement of the game, the coach would pass grounders to each of the infielders. The infielders would be expected to give a strong throw to the first base player who would then be throwing it back to the player who catches.
After the initial stages of the drill, the first base player is then expected to pick up a softball, then touch the bag and pass it on to the third base player.
After every infielder receives the ball at least five times and returns it to the first baseman, the catcher would pass on the ball towards the player who did field the last time. The fielder would have to run to this ball, grab it and throw the ball to the catcher and run his way to the dugout.
This would continue till all the players are back in the dugout except for the catcher and first baseman.
8. Bunt Drill
This is quite a standard but effective drill when it comes to baseball. In this drill, the first base player would have to charge in, then pick up the ball from the right of the infield and move on to throw it hard at the second base.
When practicing this drill, it is expected that the catch would be present at the home plate, and a player would guard the second base with the catcher positioned behind the home plate.
As soon as the coach bunts the ball, the first base player would rush in to return the ball while the catcher makes sure that he calls in for the ball at the perfect time.
This is a critical drill on the parts of the first base player as he is generally not through with making competitive throws at the bases to take out the runners. This helps make him a complete all-rounder in the field.
The drill should continue at least till the first baseman has ten bunt plays all in a row.
9. Short Hop Catching and Throwing Drill
In this drill, the first baseman makes sure that he fields every ball that the line drives throw at him. This helps him improve his stride and stretches. With time, it becomes more natural for the first baseman, and he is thus a reliable resource in the team.
While in a game, it is well expected that the first baseman would have to field the incoming balls from the line drives, and also field and throw line drives. However, even still, at times, it becomes difficult for the first base player to field the ball, especially when it takes a bounce on its path back to him.
In this drill, we would try to make sure that the first base player has a better ability to collect all the balls thrown at him. So, in this drill, the coach would have to get two infield players and the first baseman. While the two infield players can be at any position, it is preferable that they are put in the third baseman and the shortstop.
The two infielders would throw hard one-hop balls at the first baseman. To make things even more complicated, each throw’s angle is different and thus is a real challenge for the first base player.
Now, the first stop would receive the balls and throw them back towards the shortstop. After five throws from the shortstop, the first baseman would now be expecting throws from the third baseman. He would then have to set and a throwback to the player who threw.
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